By Christian Franzen
Vija Celmins was born on October 25, 1938 in Riga, Latvia. After Soviets seized control of Latvia in 1940, Celmins and her family fled to Germany where they stayed out of the hands of the Nazi forces. At the end of WWII they were relocated by the Church World Service to Indianapolis, Indiana. Not being able to speak English led Celmins to focus more of her energies on drawing at a young age.
In 1955 she was admitted to John Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. Celmins loved her time at Herron being able to fully devote herself to art in a stimulating learning environment. She graduated Herron in 1962 with her BFA and directly there after moved to Los Angeles, California to achieve her MFA from UCLA. Receiving her MFA she continued to live in the Los Angeles area teaching at many of the surrounding California State Schools and Universities.
Celmins decided to leave Los Angeles in 1981 for the allure of New York. In New York she works out of her small studio in Manhattan while teaching at Cooper Union as well as Yale.
Celmins is best known for her photorealistic paintings and drawings depicting natural surfaces such as that of the ocean and other natural occurrences in nature, Early in her career she worked to produce photorealistic depictions of common household objects which gave way into her making woodcuts then printmaking. Clemins also dabbled in sculpture in the later 1970s creating bronze sculptures as well as painted rock installations. More recently she has returned to the depiction of everyday objects in a photorealistic manner in paint and graphite.